What is AL?
Accelerated Literacy (AL) doesn’t simply teach spelling, grammar and vocabulary.
It also teaches the ways of thinking – the discourses, or cultural knowledge – that underpin what these mean. This knowledge is an essential part of being able to decode text and therefore succeed educationally.
When AL is taught effectively, teachers are able to awaken a sense of the 'what', the 'how', the 'when', the 'where', and ultimately the 'why', of language choices in a text.
As a result of AL teaching, students gain control over how to put it all together.
Accelerated Literacy is an approach to teaching reading and writing that:
- Teaches students to be fully participating members of a literate society. As Professor Peter Freebody points out in his foreword to 'Text Next - New Resources for Literacy Learning'1. this means, not just with access to the elements of a literate society, but also with a real desire to participate and confidence to be active players.
- Promotes the use of regular routines based on strategies that provide a context for classroom lessons. Professor Neil Mercer contends that education is not just a series of consecutive events but a developmental process on which new experiences build on previous ones 2..
- Lays the foundations of English literacy with continuous shared experiences through carefully chosen texts.
Through a whole book (in early childhood classes) or a passage from one (for older year levels), fluent reading and discussion of a familiar text becomes a powerful resource for learning how the ‘ground rules’ of English literacy work in a classroom context.
Accelerated Literacy can offer a solution
Being literate means being able to navigate and shape your world and your future.
The sight of a 16-year-old boy struggling to read a year one book about a fox in a box – his head down, hands over his face, mumbling apologies – is humiliating for the student and chastening for any educator.
Yet many marginalised students – particularly those from remote Indigenous schools in Australia – fail to learn even the most basic reading skills.
This is because understanding how reading and schooling works is not a given for any student: it needs to be taught.
This is where Accelerated Literacy teaching offers a solution to students who otherwise remain illiterate.
Getting the right texts
Accelerated Literacy starts with the premise that you can’t teach complex skills from simple text.
If students are behind in their reading, they won’t catch up with others at a higher level unless you teach them at that higher level.
Teach them at a low level and that’s where they’ll stay.
Accelerated Literacy helps teachers to teach at the level they want students to reach, which may be four or five years above where they currently are.
See NALPs' recommended texts. The resources section of this website has additional information about text selection.
The teaching sequence
The teaching sequence is a group of inter-related teaching strategies, which create a framework for highly effective teaching techniques using well-written, age-appropriate books.
The students learn high-level literacy skills in context by developing common knowledge about the book.
Laying the ground rules
Students who have no background in literacy don’t understand the ground rules for how schools work or for looking at a book or an illustration and then answering questions about it.
But whose problem is that?
One of Accelerated Literacy’s premises is that not understanding any of these ground rules – in other words, not having the cultural knowledge - is not the students’ problem, because they have a rich background in their own cultures.
Accelerated Literacy uses written texts to ‘scaffold’ students into the invisible rules of Western schooling, to build their confidence and knowledge and engage them in reading.
1. Freebody, P. (2004). Foreword - Hindsight and Foresight: Putting the four roles model of reading to work in the daily business of teaching. In A. Healy & E. Honan (Eds.), Text Next - New Resources for Literacy Learning. Newtown, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association.
2. Mercer, Neil (1995) The Guided Construction of Knowledge: talk amongst teachers and learners. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 1995.